Your first few day’s with Nioh 2 will be tough, confusing and fair, which is pretty much what we expected from a game designed to make you die a lot. Your journey won’t be easy, but here in our Nioh 2 beginner’s guide, written after several dozen combined hours with the game, we’ll give you some tips to make it less confusing and frustrating.
Skip tough enemies until you’re tougher
Some enemies aren’t worth fighting when you first encounter them, and you can learn this lesson very early (seriously: within the first few minutes). There’s no shame in acknowledging that a 25-foot-tall horse demon who can kill you in two hits is a battle designed for a more experienced player and a higher level character.
This is as true and applicable in hour 10 or 20 as it is in hour one. Run along. It’s not going anywhere. You can always come back — and you should, when you’re more powerful and the odds are better.
Put differently, it’s a really bad idea to fight strong enemies when you’re weak. There are plenty of other bad guys to kill.
Look for a way around
The levels of Nioh 2 are full of looping paths, alleys, and shortcuts. Mostly, you should explore them all to find useful items. But they serve a more important function as well: Shortcuts and secret alleys let you avoid some of those tough enemies we mentioned above.
Look for alternate paths. Many of them will bring you to a fight from a completely different direction, which radically changes how you approach it — sometimes even in your favor. Other alternatives let you completely skip fights, too.
If you’re having trouble getting past an enemy or just need to find an advantage, look around and see if you can use the level’s layout to your advantage.
Only fight one-on-one
The other edge you can give yourself is making sure that you control who you fight and where. Fighting even as few as two enemies at once is a bad idea. Use the environment (above) and items like stones (potbellied Gaki drop them all the time) or arrows (more on this below) to make sure you only draw the attention of one enemy at a time.
We’ll talk more about this below, but it’s worth mentioning here. Think of yourself as the boogeyman from a movie. Your goal is to separate your victims from their friends, and dispatch them one by one. With patience, you’ll clear entire areas without ever getting ganged up on.
Obsess over Ki (stamina)
Ki is Nioh 2’s most important mechanic, period.
The green bar (in the middle) at the upper left of your screen is your Ki gauge, which we’ll refer to interchangeably as your stamina gauge because that’s exactly what it is.
Keep smashing the attack button until your stamina runs out, and you can’t attack or dodge or run anymore for what feels like an eternity. This is one of Nioh 2’s most important lessons: The game doesn’t just inconvenience you for running out of stamina — it punishes you.
If relentless aggression is your instinct, then reconsider. Attack only when you’re reasonably sure that you can get a few hits in without depleting your Ki gauge. Build in some headroom for running away. Then back the hell away, regain your stamina, and wait for an opportunity to attack more.
If you find yourself standing next to an enemy, out of breath, unable to move, mashing buttons and praying, then you’re playing Nioh 2 wrong. Yes, that sounds harsh. It also happens to be true. Trust us. Ration your attacks, and back off often. You’re rarely going to kill an enemy with one hit, so make it a point to back off and conserve your Ki.
Use Ki Pulse to regain stamina
With a Ki Pulse, you can effectively regain a bit of the Ki (stamina) that you’ve just used — and that means you can keep attacking or reserve a bit of stamina for dodging or running away.
There’s really not much to it — just time pressing R1 when your Ki meter is white and filling up. The hardest part, honestly, is remembering to do it. You can also time hitting R1 to the moment when a bunch of blue particles coalesce around your character, but we prefer the bar because it’s clearer to see.
The way it finally stuck with us was — we fully admit — weird. We just locked into enemies and stared at the stamina meter in the upper left. That made us concentrate on getting a Ki Pulse. That’s how we created the habit.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to stare at most enemies while you’re fighting. They rarely attack in the time between when you’ve finished attacking and your Ki meter is refilling. And when they do attack, you’ll see the motion in your peripheral vision in plenty of time to block or dodge away.
It’s going to feel weird and dangerous, but give it a shot. Pick an enemy that you’ve fought a lot, so that you’re as comfortable as possible. Lock on, and learn your Ki Pulse timing while watching your meter refill. We’ve beaten giant Yokai without looking once at our enemies. It works.
As long as you have Ki (the green gauge that’s effectively your stamina), you’re only a button press and a split second away from sprinting at full speed away from danger. Do this in fights to put some space between you and your enemies.
Run, regroup, gain some Ki (stamina), avoid their attacks, and return to the fight.
A lot of the time, you can every sprint your way right out of combat. You just have to be careful you’re not sprinting into a different enemy.
Attack, Ki Pulse, Block, Dodge
We began Nioh 2 with a nearly insatiable urge to attack relentlessly. Sometimes that worked, and sometimes that got us dead.
Here’s what we learned to do instead: Slow down. When we stopped attacking and started timing Ki Pulses, dodging, and blocking, we started living longer. In fact, as often as not at this point, we lock onto enemies and fight while looking at our green Ki (stamina) meter.
It seems dangerous and insane, but it works. Locking on means you’ll never lose track of your enemy, and staring at the Ki meter means you’ll always know how many hits you’ve got left and when to activate Ki Pulse.
Treat new items as combat tips
A couple of hours into your first mission, Nioh 2 gives you a bow and arrows. This isn’t just a convenient ranged weapon — it’s the key to conquering the next part of the level (and it’s invaluable for the subsequent levels as well).
This kind of thing happens a lot. The game never says USE THIS NOW! but it might as well. If you get a new item that, say, cures poison, assume that’s a hint about upcoming poison. Equip it, and look for opportunities to use it soon.
Go slowly and plan your assault
Nioh 2 is a cerebral game masquerading as a button-masher.
The joy of overcoming odds so often stacked against you lies not in speed, but in smarts. Resist the urge to run into battle. There are traps and ambushes everywhere. Nioh 2 rewards slow and considered play. You win with strategy. Don’t be Leroy Jenkins.
Whenever you enter a new area, assume there’s an enemy around every corner, on every rooftop, and behind every smashable crate. You don’t have to walk with your guard up the entire time, but we often do because Nioh 2 punishes the complacent.
This same advice applies to fights — especially boss fights against big Yokai — as well. While it might not feel like you have a moment to think during these battles, force yourself to step back (metaphorically, but in-game as well). Enemy attacks have a pattern you can learn to avoid. More importantly, you can counter some attacks. Battles aren’t random, so find the rhythm and use it to your advantage.
Skip the tutorials (at first)
The first tutorials Nioh 2 offers give you the most basic basics of the game. They’re good to know, but they won’t make much sense until you’re more familiar with the game.
Every time you die, though, the game lets you return to a tutorial with the press of a button. If you find yourself stuck, return to the tutorials. A little later, when you can return to the Starting Point, you’ll have access to tutorials and training between missions. Use them and practice. More than once, we finally overcame a particularly tough Yokai by effectively practicing in the tutorials.
Treat extra weapons and armor like money
Nioh 2’s enemies will drop boatloads of weapons and armor when they die, which means that your inventory will soon be bursting with a bunch of crap that doesn’t make sense and that you’ll never use.
Digging through menus saturated with items out on the fly can be dangerous, so just hold onto everything until you reach a shrine. Once there, check to see if it’s better than what you’re wearing or wielding. If it’s not, use the Make Offering option to pawn it to the Kodama at the shrine. You’ll get Divine Rice and the occasional present, like an Elixir. Use the Divine Rice to buy the things you can never have enough of like arrows and Elixir.